Phil Lund, The Boy's Brigade

Describe your role
I am a Participation Worker for the Boys’ Brigade UK and have been in post since November 2005.  I work full time looking at how we can help support our volunteer youth workers around the country empower young people and get their voices heard at the grass roots of our organisation and right up to the highest level. 

There are several key themes that we have been and are looking to do . . .
1. Raise the profile of participation in the BB and elicit enthusiasm from the leaders.
2. Create youth work resources and a programme of activity with participation at the very heart.
3. Develop our decision making infrastructure.
4. Improve communication with young people.
5. Growth in confidence of our young people and ownership of their organisation.

Our main successes have been the development of participation training for leaders, the development of a programme that encourages young people to voice their opinions, a proposed new constitution that seeks equal representation of young people on our regional committees (i.e. England, Scotland, Northern Ireland), and a new magazine called Blink created and run by young people.

What makes a good participation worker?

Firstly, someone who has an unshakeable belief in young people, in their abilities, their potential and their ideas. We all know the hard press young people get, so it’s vital we remember how much they contribute to and enrich all our communities.

Secondly, someone who wants young people to achieve more than they could even begin to imagine.

Thirdly, someone who can set realistic goals, and doesn’t get discouraged.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
I think the three biggest barriers are . . .

1. The fact that everyone doesn’t always embrace the general principles in their working lives. It’s often left to the participation worker to do “that bit”, and isn’t integrated into everyone’s pattern of working.
2. Our imaginations.
3. Suddenly thrusting the idea of participation on young people without preparing them for the shock that someone really wants to know what they think.

What are the benefits?
I think the benefits are enormous for everyone. For the young person they get the skills and confidence to not only make a difference in the BB, but also society at large. For the youth workers they get young people who own what they do and are committed to it. For the organisation we get creative ideas, a more democratic organisation and updated services that are relevant to today’s young people.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Young people should not be asked their opinion from a position of ignorance. Make sure that they have the full picture and not just one side i.e. the decision that someone else wants.

What is effective participation?
Effective participation produces change.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB